Gender disparity: Female wages continue to lag behind men's salaries in the House and Senate

Women who work for Congress make on average $2,200 less annually than male staffers, with the biggest gender pay disparity found this year among Senate Republicans, new salary data reveal.

Women working in the Washington, D.C., and local offices for House and Senate members make on average $57,308 compared to $59,525 for men, according to salary data for 2021 provided by LegiStorm, a nonpartisan company that monitors and researches congressional data. 

The overall wage gap of 96% for women is slightly worse than last year and a retreat from the 2016 benchmark of 98% when the Capitol Hill wage disparity was nearly closed. The salary differences persist despite a record number of women elected to the House and Senate in 2020 and females now accounting for about 27% of the 535 members of both chambers of Congress. 

Senate Republicans, who closed the pay gap considerably in 2020 and fared better than Senate Democrats a year ago, have started off 2021 with the biggest salary disparities between men and women, new data reviewed by Fox News show. 

The average female Senate GOP staffer made $62,472 for the most recent pay period that covered October 2020 to March 2021, records show. That’s about $4,300 less than the average male Senate GOP staffer who made $66,766. The nearly 94% pay gap is the largest on the Hill by party and chamber.

The five senators, regardless of party, with the largest pay gaps between the average male and average female salaries are Republican Sens. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama (23 female staffers making on average 67% of the average wage of his 15 male employees); Bill Hagerty of Tennessee (14 females making 68% of the 26 males); Dan Sullivan of Alaska (26 females making 70% of the 15 males); Jerry Moran of Kansas (17 females making 71% of the average salary for the 21 males); and Jim Risch of Idaho (22 females making 72% of the average wage of the 16 male employees), according to the data. 

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., listens during a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 11, 2021, on climate change. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Tuberville’s office says the data doesn’t paint the full picture of how the freshman senator “purposefully and intentionally set up his office to be an environment where young women could have career growth opportunities.”

“Over 60% of Sen. Tuberville’s staff are women, with both the state staff and D.C. staff having more female than male staffers,” a Tuberville spokeswoman told Fox News. “The senior staff is equally divided, three and three, between male and female staffers.”

The spokeswoman said Tuberville “is among the leaders in providing women on the Hill opportunities to serve and lead at all levels. We reject any application of the data that suggests female staff are paid inequitably or any differently than similarly situated male staff. That is simply not the case.”

The Senate data ranges from October of 2020 to March 2021, so it overlaps with the new and old Congress and captures newly elected members as they are just setting up their offices.

Judd Deere, a spokesman for Hagerty’s office, said the GOP freshman values his team. “Sen. Hagerty has assembled an incredible team full of exceptional, diverse talent and expertise who go above and beyond every day to represent and fight for the people of Tennessee,” Deere told Fox News. “The senator values each and every member of his staff and the hard work they do.”

Wage gap is nearly erased for House Democrats 

In contrast, women working for House Democrats fared the best with a nearly nonexistent pay gap of making 99.7% of what male staffers’ earned. The average salary for women on the House Democrats’ payroll for the first quarter of 2021 was $56,709 compared to $56,909 for men. 

Senate Democrats and House Republicans trailed, with each having roughly a 96% pay gap for women on average, followed then by 94% for Senate Republicans. 

The data provided by LegiStorm and analyzed by Fox News also reveal that women dominate the workforce on Capitol Hill and local congressional offices around the country. Nearly 5,800 women were on the payroll in personal offices this year, compared to nearly 4,900 men.

The wage gap was calculated by looking at all the staff salaries for women in a particular office and dividing that total by the number of females on the payroll to create an average female wage regardless of position. That number was compared to the average male wage in that same office to detect any disparity. 

The aggregate numbers do have some setbacks, however, since they don’t take into account various pay rates and experience requirements for different jobs. Some offices pointed out that the dominance of women on their payroll could skew their wage gap data negatively if the entry-level positions are primarily filled by women and the higher-paid staffers are more evenly split by gender.

For instance, the biggest office wage gap detected on Capitol Hill in 2021 was for Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., according to LegiStorm data shared with Fox News. The female staff in the first quarter of 2021 made on average $55,787 in her office compared to $126,736 for the average male salary. But a closer look reveals that the data accounts for 13 female staffers in an array of jobs and just a single male staffer, who holds the top position of chief of staff. 

FILE- In this May 14, 2018 file photo, then-candidate Jahana Hayes addresses delegates during the Democratic convention for the 5th District in Waterbury, Conn. So far in 2021, Rep. Jahana Hayes , D-Conn., had the biggest pay gap in Congress for her 13 female staffers and one male senior staffer.  (Jim Shannon/Republican-American via AP, File)

“The wage gap in this report is so stark because it is averaging a staff that is overwhelmingly female against the salary of the one male staffer,” Hayes’ communications director, Imani Pope-Johns, said in a statement to Fox News. “This also does not take into consideration the difference in the role each staffer is hired to do. It is not unusual that the staff assistant makes less than the chief of staff.”

Pope-Johns added: “It is a priority of the congresswoman to actively recruit women and minorities and to train from within for future advancement.”

Nearly ⅔ of congressional offices reported women making less on average than men 

Overall, 63% of House and Senate offices have a female pay gap, the data reviewed by Fox News show. 

Other offices with big disparities between the average female wage and average male wage are Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., whose 10 female staff make on average $50,344 compared to $91,351 for four male staffers, according to the LegiStorm data for the first quarter of 2021.

Six female staff working for Alabama GOP Rep. Gary Palmer make on average $44,655 compared to $80,602 for seven male staffers. GOP Reps. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson of Pennsylvania and Andrew Clyde of Georgia have 11 and nine female staffers on their payroll, respectively, but they make on average just 56% of the average salary of the five males who work in each of their offices, that data show.

On the flip side, there are 200 member offices – or 37% of House and Senate members – where no pay gap is detected or women make more on average than men. 

Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., pay female staffers in their personal offices on average nearly double that of men, the data reviewed by Fox News show. Other offices where women are making at least 1.5 times more on average than men include GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., and Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y.

Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., pays her six female staffers on average nearly double than the salary for her three male staffers, records show. 
(Courtesy Victoria Spartz for Congress)

The release of the data comes as the wage gap was center stage in the Senate earlier this month. Senate Republicans blocked Democrats from advancing their Paycheck Fairness Act that was designed to protect employees from wage discrimination on the basis of sex and gender. A procedural vote on June 8 to move forward with the wage gap legislation failed by a vote of 49-50 – short of the 60 votes needed to clear the legislative filibuster. 

Democrats pounced on the GOP for blocking the legislation, with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., saying it’s “unconscionable” a gender pay gap still exists in 2021 and blaming Republicans for stopping progress on ending the disparity. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-N.M., shamed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for using the filibuster to block a bill that would have “guaranteed women equal pay.”

But the National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) was quick to point out that several of the Democrats up for reelection this year have pay gaps in their offices, especially when comparing male staff doing the same work as female staff. 

Female constituent advocates in Bennet’s office, for instance, earned 89% of what male constituent advocates made and female regional representatives in Cortez Masto’s office make 91% of what their male counterparts earned in the same role, according to an NRSC analysis of congressional staff data shared with Fox News.

NRSC press secretary Katharine Cooksey said the Democrats’ push for the Paycheck Fairness Act was designed to “distract from the paycheck disparity in their own offices” and served as “yet another example of their ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ mentality.'”

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